Entry for July 24, 2007

And now you, too, can live like a Katrina victim, in one of FEMA’s infamous trailers.

The agengcy was criticized yet again in Congress the other day, this time for auctioning off 17,000 of its formaldahide-ridden trailers. so here’s my question, what do they do in the next disaster, buy new ones? Seems like a good way to lose money for the government, or rather, yet another way to transfer it to the private sector. The trailers cost $60,000 to !00,000 to purchase.

And rather than invest in permanent housing in decent neighborhoods, according to the Urban Institute’s Margery Austin-Turner, our government is still housing thousands in FEMA’s trailer parks, each with hundreds of tiny trailers lined up in rows in huge, fenced-in fields, miles from schools, jobs, grocery stores, playgrounds, or doctors offices. Kind of reminds you of an interment camp, huh.

Consider instead Marianne Cusato’s traditional-style cottages

300-square-foot structures that can be constructed faster than a FEMA trailer for less than $35,000…. The houses are built with fiber-cement siding and crimped metal roofs. They are more attractive alternatives to the sterile FEMA trailers, and can ultimately be incorporated into long-term plans as guest houses or studios.

Cusato’s cottage is one of several models that came out of the 2005 Missippi Renewal Forum in Biloxi, where New Urbanist architect-planner Andrés Duany charged his design team

to come up with an alternative to the FEMA trailer that could become a building block to a real neighborhood. Why not use taxpayers’ enormous investment in temporary disaster housing to add value to recovering communities instead of future eyesores?

The alternative had to be safe, capable of life in a storm zone. It had to be practical for long-term living. And it had to be so appealing that communities would welcome them into existing neighborhoods instead of zoning then out for fear of pulling down property values.

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